No matter how you stand on the issue of hunting/trapping it seems to take a different tone in rural places where farming is a way of life and predator hunting is seen as a vital part of protection for livestock. West Virginia like many eastern states is seeing an invasion of a new kind of predator. The Coyote is a relatively new member to the Appalachian ecosystem as migration of the Eastern Coyote ( a cross bred coyote and wolf) has taken generations to happen. But the population is growing and more people are discovering what western folks have always known. No one wants a Coyote in the chicken house! So what to do with the increasing populations of non-native predators in our state?
The West Virginia Department of Wild Life has stated this on their Coyote research website page. “Predator control of coyotes preying on livestock should be restricted to targeted animals. Although bounties have been liberally used on coyotes in the west, no bounty system has ever worked. Liberal trapping seasons for the coyote should continue. Methods to encourage the sport of predator calling and means to target the coyote as a fur-bearer and game animal should be explored.“
It is a challenging to be a farmer or rancher to start with, but to hear the yipping and howling of a pack of Coyotes from the front porch of your farm can be unnerving. Over the 18 years that we lived and worked our farm Coyotes were only in our area the last 6 to 8 years. It was often in the fall and winter that we heard the late night howling of the dogs. Often it was during the early spring foaling season on the farm and same time of the year that our neighbors cattle were calving out in the pasture. By the end of February and March we would often see our friends out tending to the new-born calves and would meet along a fence row and talk about the winter weather and how the babies were growing. Often Tom and I would hear about the calves that were killed by Coyotes. It is tragic but one new born calf is no match for 3 or 4 Coyotes. Even today we often spend time with farmers who raise sheep and goats who have purchased “watch animals” like Donkeys to protect the herd from the preying eyes of the dogs. The Coyote topic is becoming more common in my circle of friends. No farmer wants to lose his income to a predator. Losing one calf is a real financial blow to a farmer. So hunting the mysterious animal is becoming big sport in the hills and hallows.
Within a 50 mile radius of our home there are 3 Coyote hunting contests every winter. Coyotes are legal game year around and electronic calls and artificial light or night vision hunting is legal from Jan to July. There are no bag limits, daily,seasonally or annually. So all a person needs is to hold a legal West Virginia hunting / trapping license to pursue a Coyote. Even with this liberal policy the Coyote population is growning and the conflict continues to rise.
So this fall as my husband and son were out deer hunting they watched a pack of three coyote running through the woods chasing a doe deer. It was a within a five-minute walk to a friend’s house where they roamed. They were close enough that if you walked your dog you may be confronted with them. I was shocked even after hearing them in the darkness night after night to think that they were hunting so close to our families farm and even closer to our nieghbors house.
What would you do? What will most of the rural farm families do when this happens to them? When is wild life to close for comfort? Do we need to lose life stock and small pets before it is allowable to remove the threat? The need to answer these questions are being raised in West Virginia, Pennsylvanian and Virginia.The Department of Wild Life of West Virginia says it is OK to protect and defend, so my husband felt that it was in the best interest of that doe and my neighbors dogs and cats to harvest two of the three Coyotes that day.
I sit here and wonder if the Coyote will be to West Virginia and Pennsylvanian what the wild boar is to Florida and Georgia. An animal that causes more damage than good in the ecosystem and ends up on the front page of the DRN’s list of problems. I know for now that with the help of hunters and trappers we may have a chance to keep the Coyote out of the chicken house but we may need more professional help like Florida and Georgia have resorted to for their pig problems. What the future holds for farmers and Coyotes is unknown but I do know that the problem is not going away any time soon.